For many years at the beginning of the month I have gotten calls from people who tell me their toilet partially empties and refills in the middle of the night.

Most of the time they want the tank drain flap replaced. Many times the tank flap is in fine shape and does not necessarily need to be replaced.

Finally, in 2005, I was able to capture on video a toilet tank emitting so much bubbling gas the tank flap could not shut.

My solution was to turn the water off and check later in the day to see if it stopped. It did. And there was no more trouble after that. But I still have no logical explanation.

So, today, from the Pottyology archives my captured video of an unsolved mystery.

What you see here is gas in the toilet tank with enough pressure to keep the tank drain flap open.

Most knowledgeable people (me included) will tell you the design of a toilet makes this type of bubbling gas pressure virtually impossible.

Any engineers with any explanations?


Wad Of Super Absorbent Material

Sooo, a few weeks ago it seemed we were up to our earlobes in 19th Century Technology here at the International Handyman Headquarters. CLICK LINK HERE

Recently, (last week especially) all roads seemed to lead to Pottyology. (Again!)

In addition to P-Traps so fragile (frag-gill-lee) they can be crushed with light pressure from a fingertip,CLICK LINK HERE we had one of our semi-annual drain clearing riots over at one of our
favorite ancient office buildings.

For your edumafication a photograph of the result when bad things happen to good toilets.

The porcelain fixture must be detached from the floor and a long metal cable inserted into the pipe underneath to clear out whatever ails the clogged plumbing.

In the picture you see a wad of super absorbent synthetic material easily purchased at pharmacies and supermarkets everywhere –which somehow traveled into the company toilet.

Now some of you may think it impossible for one little tiny wad of this stuff to clog a four inch drain.

You would be correct.

The one you see is the one that did not get away. There were at least half a dozen of her little buddies packed so tightly into a four inch pipe that the cable actually bored through and punctured this one in the middle of the clog.

Once the tension was broken the rest of the gang just scampered off into the city sewer lines.

Folks, the only manufactured material that should go into a toilet is bathroom tissue.


Anything else will just gunk up the works.

More Pottyology!
>>>>>>>>>>>>Update 06/03/12: The design I like the most and have used the longest is apparently still available at Grainger: CLICK THIS LINK OR THIS LINK for two different sizes!<<<<<<<<


So I am in the market for a water powered drain bladder to clean a four inch rain downspout.

Naturally I want a design similar to the bladder I have used to clear sinks successfully for many years.

It features a nozzle with stop valve closed by a compression spring which opens the valve at the appropriate pressure.

This generates a nice steady percussive pressure which is remarkably efficient clearing clogs

My first stop: the big box lumber supply store.

They have a rubber gizmo with a high pressure jet hole, but no metal nozzle.

Okay, I believe in innovation, maybe this will do the job.

Wrong. I can not even get the bladder to expand to seal the pipe.

Off I go to the hardware store. They have essentially the same design.

Okay,what I really need is the giant canvas bladder deal the sewer rooter guys used a few weeks ago.

Off I go to the Mom-and-Pop plumbing supply.

They have only the rubber gizmo as sold by the big box lumber supply and the hardware store.

But I am nothing if not tenacious.

The super big box official plumbing supply is bound to have what I need.

Wow! They do! It looks EXACTLY like the canvas thing the sewer rooter guys used!

And it costs $$$$$$$$. Did I say it costs $$$$$?

I meant it costs $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$!

But I get one.


I hope it is defective. Stay tuned. I will report back tomorrow.

Today, the Sales Guy at the super big box official plumbing supply and I tried to figure out if my Drain Flusher was defective or suffering from operator error or what.

We took it to the loading dock and hooked up a hose and doggone if it worked substantially better than when I tried yesterday (in two different locations).

Whether it was the "powerful jet action" promised on the package seemed doubtful to both of us, but it certainly was not the weak pressure I videotaped here at the house.

Before we foul up his inventory, I said I would talk to the company- General Wire Spring in PA- and see what they said.

Stay tuned. The saga continues.

Update 10/12/10

The replacement arrived from the factory as promised and within just two or three days. I eagerly opened the package and connected it to the garden hose to try it out. Deja Vu all over again. It worked no better than the first one. I will make a video and post soon. Bottom line as per the package: the super powerful jet action is no more powerful than the garden hose to which it is attached. A brass hose nozzle boosts the spray more than this canvas bag gizmo. Anyone with comments or suggestions is welcome to post in the remarks section.

Seven Pipes to avoid-three gas lines and four water lines

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be plumbers!

I was called to deal with some bathroom problems at a local office and the Sewer Rooter Guys arrived to help
untangle everything.

Observe what they found. What you see in this picture is a total of seven pipes ABOVE the broken cast iron drain pipe behind the building.

Three of the pipes are gas lines and four are water lines.

The paint locator marks could not begin to do justice to this forest of metal two feet underground, but they helped.

For best results everything was dug by hand with greatest care to avoid damage to any of the lines.

A good time was had by all.

Cracked Cast Iron Pipe Click Thumbnail for Hi Resolution Image

Cracked Cast Iron Pipe Click Thumbnail for Hi Resolution Image

Aficionados of the Curiosity Bin may be as baffled by this tale as I am!

This vintage cast iron pipe was securely tucked away behind a vertical plaster and lath plumbing chase for at least 80 years (the last time walls were finished with wooden lath strips) if not longer.

Under no stress from standing water or other harsh environmental conditions it is possible to believe this fine
piece of 19th Century style technology would easily remain in service pretty much forever.

And yet,a few years back, a crack along the length of the pipe developed and broke through and there ensued a spectacular mess every time anyone flushed the upstairs toilet.

Why would such a thing happen in a protected undisturbed space? Who knows?

Suffice to say it took many hours of demolition, replacement and repair to restore the pipe and wall to
to prelapserian perfection.

A curiosity indeed!


Small parts finaglery to connect toilet and valve

Pottyology-of or dealing with the repair and maintenance of potties (toilets) (commodes).

So one day my phone rings and the client informs me he has managed to acquire a genuine European Toilet and transport same back to these United States.

In a time before flexible supply tubes were widely available and unaware the dimensions of American plumbing were completely incompatible with European fixtures he had already sent one plumber foolish enough to accept the challenge screaming madly off into the night

He said, and I quote “I sense some difficulty in the installation”.

Needless to say, I certainly could not resist this invitation to personally witness mayhem “in situ”, so I hopped in the truck and drove out to take a look.

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